Wednesday, January 19, 2005

He Stinks, So I Guess He Still Is

You remember how I saw the neighborhood wino actually buying wine?

You remember how I said he always smelled. (No, says the copy editor; he stank and you smelled.) But that day last month when I spotted him at Albertson's buying the jug of Carlo Rossi, he seemed on his best behavior redolence-wise. I got close and checked him out, you recall. Very reporterly, very empirical.

Today I was at the same Albertson's looking at the cognac, having made an impulse purchase at Costco and, somewhat remorseful, needing to reassure myself that your low-end Remy Martin was in fact a bargain. (Happens all the time at Costco. I buy "up" because Costco is a master of the irresistible price point.)

Anyway, I was staring at the cognac when I smelled something pungent to the point of tangible. I thought it might be me. I've been walking three brisk miles first thing every morning to get my blood pressure down. But this was familiar without being personal; it was a signature fragrance. I turned around and there behind me, in the act of checking out, was our wino.

I maneuvered until I could see what he was buying -- a big bag of fresh cranberries and a big jug of cranberry juice. Hmm.

Later I told my wife that maybe he was in the mood for a cocktail, a Cosmo or a Kiss Me Quick. She said no, that through native cunning or exposure to the advice column in Prevention Magazine, he has figured out that juices rich in vitamins will counteract the alcohol to one degree or another. She said that was what her second stepgrandfather did: He would drink mass quantities of alcohol for months at a time. Then he would stop cold and, using the battered juicer he dragged around with him even when he had no fixed abode, he would pulp his fruits and vegetables and build himself up for his next binge.

He lived into his 80s -- which was better than her third stepgrandfather or her fourth stepgrandfather did.

I like her theory. It suggests some judgment is still at work. Our wino is keeping his options open, choosing to prolong rather than accelerate -- for the moment. He plays his means of death as if they were a symphony orchestra.

Andante. Andante.


Anonymous said...

This preoccupation with the bum. Therefore, but for the grace of God go I? Oh, I forgot. You're an atheist. Ha! Ha!

....J.Michael Robertson said...

Christian atheist. Otherwise an agnostic. When I see a bum like our neighborhood bum, I think there but for the grace of the New Deal go I. May I suggest the January 1 edition of the Economist for a compelling discussion of how the U.S. is less and less a meritocracy and how we may be slipping back toward a gap between rich and poor that will rival the Gilded Age? The *Economist* for goodness sake.